358:206 American Horror Stories

01  MTH2  3/10-4/28   CAC  20722  BARTON   SC-114

American Horror Stories

How does Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” use supernatural terror to reflect contemporary anxieties about economic inequality, cholera epidemics, and slave uprisings? How do Ambrose Bierce’s ghosts reframe the traumas of the American Civil War? How do decomposing corpses and legacies of violence inform very different accounts of the American South for William Faulkner and Charles Chesnutt? For many American authors in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, literature offered a way to imagine new responses to ongoing social issues such as the formation of a new national identity, chattel slavery, or the changing roles of women in society. But this period also saw horror writing take on particular importance as a way to confront unknowable problems without necessarily offering solutions. This class will read tales of the supernatural and social deviance, as well as stories that blur the boundaries between the two categories, by authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, Charles Chesnutt, and H. P. Lovecraft. Through these readings, we will explore how horror can help a wide variety of American authors, and us, come to terms with a dramatically changing world.